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Will drug-smuggling pic "Mena" capture all the dark and dirty secrets linking Clinton, Bush?
The mysterious Mena Airport in western Arkansas. The secrets it could tell.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – I was admittedly surprised to learn recently that Tom Cruise (Vanilla Sky, Eyes Wide Shut, etc., etc.) is likely to work with director Doug Liman on the upcoming “drug-trade pic Mena,” about – according to Variety – “Barry Seal, a TWA pilot recruited by the CIA to provide reconnaissance on the burgeoning communist threat in Central America.”

Continuing, the Variety piece adds that “Seal finds himself in charge of oone of the biggest covert CIA operations in the history of the U.S., one that spawned the birth of the Medellin drug cartel and eventually almost brought down the Reagan White House through the Iran-Contra scandal!”

Well, holy shit! Is this true? After all these years, and conspiracy rumor mills and grainy, low-budget videotape exposes, could the real story of Mena be coming to the big screen and possibly upset a certain former secretary-of-state’s chances at becoming the next president of the United States? Let’s hope this Mena film has wider screenings than 2014’s Kill the Messenger did, the one about the late “suicided” journalist Gary Webb, who broke the story about the CIA/drug link to America’s proxy war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. The film was critically acclaimed but largely disappeared from theaters once TPTB got wind of how much of their dirty laundry it exposed.

Looking back in the Red Dirt Report archives, typing in the name “Barry Seal,” I was impressed to see five stories noting that notorious, 1980’s-era, drug-running pilot posted here since June 2012.

Why do I bring this up? Well, for several reasons: First, the CIA was definitely using the airstrip near Mena, Arkansas in the 1980’s as a jumping-off point to and from Latin America as it smuggled guns and drugs back-and-forth – all on Gov. Bill Clinton’s watch.

Look, that can of worms was opened long ago and investigative reporters like Daniel Hopsicker (Barry and 'the Boys') have kept that story alive, and for good reason – because (among many other reasons) Hillary Clinton is likely the frontrunner in the 2016 election and she knows where the bodies are buried. And having lived in Arkansas during those years and hearing all the stories about Mena and what Barry Seal was doing at the rural Nella airstrip (Polk County, Ark.), as The Wall Street Journal noted in 1994, in the article "Mysterious Mena."

Wrote reporter Micah Morrison: "In 1986, Mr. Seal's wild ride came to an end. Three Colombian hitmen armed with machine guns caught up with him as he sat behind the wheel of his white Cadillac in Baton Rouge, La., and blasted him to his eternal reward. Eight months after the murder, Mr. Seal's cargo plane was shot down over Nicaragua. Aboard was a load of ammunition and supplies for the Contras. One crew member, Eugene Hasenfus, survived. With the crash, and the Iran-Contra affair surfacing, investigators started looking at the Nella airstrip in a new light. Maybe Barry Seal was not just flying drugs into the U.S. Maybe he also was flying newly trained Contras and weapons out." Juciy stuff. Should have taken down Reagan, Bush, Oliver North and the rest. But on the Gilligan's Island that is America, "the rest" are largely forgotten and slip away.

Again, getting my journalistic start in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and doing some work with Ozark Gazette reporter Mark Swaney, a guy steeped in Mena lore in the 1990's, I learned a lot. As Swaney told Pacifica Radio in a 1991 interview: "The thing that separates Mena's airport from any other is the fact that there are row upon row of hangars --buildings which house aircraft refitting facilities. Now aircraft refitting is an industry that is in demand by two principal paying customers. One of them is the CIA, and the other one are drug smugglers. "

I just hope the filmmakers get it right. And I hear pretty boy Tom Cruise is putting on A LOT of weight to play the role of the hefty Barry Seal. 

Here’s a sampling of the RDR articles noting Seal:

1.      “Jackson Stephens, BCCI, and Drug-Money Laundering,” a piece I wrote about the links between Arkansas’ “Big Money Man” and Bill and Hillary Clinton, it incorporated other info as well, aggregated from other sources. A great overview.The piece states: “(Stephens was) a top donor to the Reagan and George H.W. Bush campaigns, he suddenly switched to Clinton in 1990. He brought BCCI to US shores in 1979 and helped launder cocaine profits from CIA drug smuggling in Mena, Arkansas and elsewhere.” Barry Seal is mentioned, multiple times.

2.      Mitt Romney: Banana Republican (August 14, 2012) and how when he was running for president, he was “in favor of continuing America’s failed War on Drugs.” The story focused on Romney’s cozy relationship in the early 1980’s with Salvadoran elites living in Miami, who had clear ties with the same brutal right-wing death squads that took the life of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980 (Romero, coincidentally, was declared a martyr by left-leaning Pope Francis this week – making Romero that much closer to being declared a saint). I noted that the “Romney-coke-dealer connection” probably won’t go anywhere and that “the Everglades and surrounding environs were awash in blow in the neon Eighties. And Barry Seal and “the boys” were shipping it in like clockwork.”

3.      In “Tandem floundering? NRA and GOP grasp at straws” (December 21, 2012) notes how the National Rifle Association was developing a “model security plan for schools that relies on armed volunteers” and was being led by “former DEA and peripheral Iran-Contra figure (who was investigating drug smuggler Barry Seal, but didn’t finish the job *wink* *wink*) Asa Hutchinson (now the new governor of Arkansas).” I covered Hutchinson back in the mid-1990’s, when he was a congressman. He and his brother Tim Hutchinson are unbending, authoritarian figures of the cookie-cutter-Christ variety. Dangerous guy. And I suspect the Clinton’s are happy one of “their” guys is back in the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock.

4.      Then there was “Hey flyboy! Is that blow on your shirt?” (August 9, 2013), we note the “curious” shipment of cocaine flown from Costa Rica to Miami! I wrote, at the time: “So, with brightly-colored images of coke shipment and cocaine cowboys swirling in my head, it was with great interest that I saw this story: “Snow job: US Air Force flies cocaine from Costa Rica to Miami.” Now there’s a story that (Miami Vice’s) Crockett and Tubbs could sink their teeth into.  And yet, the Reagan era is becoming a distant memory with each passing day. Did I read that correctly? Is the ghost of Barry Seal haunting the lonely, tropical skies of the Caribbean once again?” It was Seal, and the shooting down of that CIA plane by Sandinista forces in Nicaragua, marooning survivor Eugene Hasenfus in October 1986 (he had George Bush’s phone number in his pocket – ha!) that helped blow Iran-Contra wide open, and nearly sending Jelly Bean Reagan to the slammer.

5.      And then there was this one from Decmber 14, 2014 – “The only way to fly.” In fact, as I write this, “Somebody Got Murdered” by The Clash (from the Sandinista! album, synchronistically speaking) is playing in the background. And indeed, Barry Seal was murdered. Gary Webb was likely murdered. Bush critic and journalist J.H. Hatfield was murdered – in Springdale, Arkansas! A few months before the 9/11 terror attacks and those dark months when everyone rallied around Bush and gave him the opening to keep the poppy fields cultivated in Afghanistan and the oil flowing from Iraq. 

I noted Hillary earlier. In this piece, I note Jeb Bush and Barry Seal here. “Jeb Bush in 1986 was the 22-year-old chairman of the Dade County Republican Party and he was up to his eyeballs in the Iran-Contra scandal.” I get more into that in our recent piece "Say no to Jeb!" Let me reiterate: If either Hillary or Jeb is the next president, Latin America better put their seat belt on, cuz it's gonna be a wild ride - and not in a good way.

Back to Mena ... it be like the Mel Gibson/Robert Downey Jr. vehicle Air America from 1990? A buddy comedy with some action thrown in? Ugh! Or will it have more heft? Knowing the connections Hillary and Jeb have, I'll almost be surprised if the damn thing actually sees the light of day. But hey, I've been wrong before.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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